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Subject: Replayable, realistic and very challenging rss

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John Fielder
United Kingdom
London
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I have just had another go at Tokyo Express after a gap of many years. My initial attempts at playing it were discouraging.

The game system is ingenious. I have only played the basic game, which is a kind of learning system for beginners, but it is actually quite complex and daunting. Each turn is very tense because you never know when combat will occur. You have to anticipate where the Japanese ships will go and try to outmanouevre them so you are aligned to inflict maximum damage while presenting a very narrow profile to the enemy.

It's a lot harder than it sounds because the Japanese are much more agile than you. They get re-aligned and receive new orders half way through the 6-phase turn whereas your ships have to follow the orders you give them in phase 1, although you have some flexibility in how you interpret those orders.

But to make it even harder, the Japanese have better spotters, trained to see you before you see them. They can fire from a much greater range and are more effective when they do. More of their ships have torpedoes and they have better, more accurate, more lethal torpedoes.

In his design notes Jon Southard states: "In your initial encounter with Tokyo Express, you will, I hope, feel some of the frustration and awe the American admirals did. The objective throughout was to give you their bridge-eye view. You may be defeated often at first, but you should find your own solutions, as the US admirals finally did."

This was certainly my experience. It seemed like a huge expenditure of brainpower just to get blasted out of the water time and time again. I always had the worst luck and nothing I tried seemed to work. My shots never inflicted much damage even when they hit, whereas the Japanese could sink my best ships effortlessly.

But looking back on my first few games I think I did a lot better than I realised, since the Japanese only won marginal victories. This time I got a marginal US victory and it was very satisfying.

I am awed not just by the Japanese ships but also by the game design. It's very unusual in being a solitaire system that keeps you guessing. It's highly replayable and very challenging, for all the right, historical reasons.

However, you do have to have a certain mentality to enjoy this game. It's not for everyone. You have to be patient, dogged and humble. You have to be prepared to lose and be tough enough to keep trying even if you think you can never win.

I'm not sure I'm patient or intrepid enough to tackle the full game system yet. I'm not even going to think about the advanced game. But it is certainly one of the best solitaire games I have ever played because you are facing an enemy that is flexible, unpredictable and very tough, using a system that is deep, detailed and highly realistic.

I recommend it to anyone who has a surplus of leisure time and is up for an intellectual and psychological challenge.
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Jim Ransom
United States
Jacksonville
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There are two kinds of ships: Submarines, and Targets.
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Thanks for the review John. This has always been one of my favorite games. The design is very well done. And the topic -- the frantic, brutal, evenly matched night naval actions in and around the Solomon Islands in 1942/43 -- is perfect for a naval wargame. You will find the advanced game to be easily masterable, and well worth the investment of time.
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Kristopher
United States
Allentown
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Hey, buddy, can you spare a role?
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I jotted it down in my Risk campaign book. I always used to do that so I could replay my moments of glory over a glass of brandy in the sleeping quarters. --Arnold J. Rimmer--
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As much as I don't care for all the fiddly little chits stacked all over the place,

the game engine is KILLER.
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Judy Krauss
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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but I'm not the only one
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Nice review. thumbsup

This is my favorite solitaire game, and has been since I first played it a couple of decades ago. I don't get to play it much lately because it takes a rather large table (or floor space) to set up the map, battle movement display, counter tray, cards and ship logs.
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Paul Spak
United States
Spencer
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I simply love the rule regarding firing at an out of visual range target based on the appearance of the gun flash. Try and get to the advanced rules, this is a super game- and a good simulation.
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401k? More like .357
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Baltimore
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Never has there been a more gorgeous game system trapped in such God awful box art.

Great review, makes me think about breaking it out this holiday weekend!
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Terence Tan
Singapore
Singapore
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wowAbout the box art - I read a review of the game in one of the mags (maybe Fire and Movement) which said that Roger McGowan did a nice piece for the cover but VG chose the ugly one instead. Not sure why
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Mike H

Michigan
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Just picked it up on ebay. delivery 4/1! arrrh
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Scott Palmer
United States
South Carolina
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Fantastic game; just getting back into it.
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